Hello, and welcome to the Leadership Done Right podcast, Episode 12: Inspirational Leadership — The Inspirational Story of James Conner.
The Sports Fan In Me!
Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a major sports fan. I love sports and have played most of them at some competitive level throughout my life. I did baseball, basketball, football, soccer, ultimate frisbee, and the list goes on… Of all the sports I played, football has always been my favorite to play and watch. I follow both college football and the pros. I love football so much it is almost an addiction.
Last week was the start of NFL preseason and college football starts in just a few weeks. As I have been getting back into the swing of football, I’ve heard many stories about football players and their triumphs to compete in the face of difficult challenges. Of all the stories, one stood out more than the rest. I’ll start by asking… Who is the current NFL football player with the most jersey sales? Your probably thinking, Tom Brady, Dak Prescott, Von Miller, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Colin Kaepernick or one of the other big name players in the league, right?
If you thought it was one of them, you’d be wrong just like me. The player that currently has the highest jersey sales hasn’t even played a down in a regular season NFL game. Do I have your attention?
Inspirational Leadership Story
This player is a rookie with an incredible inspirational story. His name is James Conner. He was a runningback for University of Pittsburgh.
Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Cancer
In December 2015, as a junior in college, James Connor was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer. He began undergoing chemotherapy. During his battle with cancer, he didn’t let the condition get the best of him for even a moment. He continued his regular workouts and did everything he could to stay competitive to be able to return to football. He underwent a total of six months of chemotherapy and was diagnosed cancer free in May 2016. His first game back was against Villanova where he scored two touchdowns. During the 2016 season, he ran over 1,000 yards and scored 20 touchdowns.
Check out the video SC Featured: Conner fights for those who can’t
When James overcame cancer, he made it his mission to help others struggling with their own physical ailments and was given Disney’s Wide World of Sports Spirit Award. This award is presented annually to college football’s most inspirational individual or team. This year James Conner was drafted to the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 105th overall draft pick. What an inspirational story!
Inspirational Leadership Lessons
So what leadership lessons can we learn from this story? I’d like to focus on
1. Everyone is a leader
Kevin Kruse quote, “You’re a leader whether you want to be or not. Leadership is about influence. You influence people around you when you speak up about a dumb idea, but you also influence people when you choose to be silent. Leadership influence is not a choice.”
2. Be Resilient
3. Help Others Through Their Challenges
4. Do Your Very Best
5. Be an Inspiration to Others
Thank you for listening to this episode of the Leadership Done Right podcast. I included the link above to an ESPN Sports Center Featured video focused on James Conner’s story. It is definitely a video worth watching.
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